Sales Enablement – don’t put the cart before the horse!

Horse-_amp_-Cart-Woodcut-150x150Over the last several years Sales Enablement has moved to center stage as a topic of attention in the world of sales.  Although the exact definition varies depending on the actor, Sales Enablement is all about creating and delivering the following:  practices, technologies and tools that enable a sales team to improve their performance and productivity.

One can quickly grasp the emerging interest in the topic by noting the number of white papers and blogs on the topic and number of consulting firms that now exist to help companies do a better job getting Sales Enablement right.

Inside organizations, the conversation about Sales Enablement is usually played out in conjunction with doing something about the historical finger pointing between Sales and Marketing.  Because of the transformational changes that are occurring across markets in the buying environment, the misalignment of Sales and Marketing can no longer be ignored and Sales Enablement is a great banner under which to do something about that.

Fair enough.  All the recent interest and money devoted to Sales Enablement seems both timely and appropriate.  Customers are clearly changing how they buy and if customers change how they buy, then sales organizations need to change how they sell.  They need to up their game. And, in today’s market Sales cannot get that job done without help.

If it can be agreed that Sales Enablement is a good idea, then the second set of issues evolve around getting it right. In the past a lot of good ideas related to sales improvement have never made it out of the other end of the tunnel and Sales Enablement is not immunized against such an end.

Although a number of pitfalls await, one that we believe desires particular attention relates to the grand old idea of “not putting the cart before the horse.”

You can’t enable the sales process unless you are abundantly clear as to what the sales process ought to be that you are trying to enable and you cannot answer that question unless you have devoted sufficient time to understanding the buying process.  The quickest way to get lost in the tunnel is to attempt to enable a sales process that is fuzzy, or misaligned or out-of-date with the buying process.  Today, the companies that are built to win are the companies that are built to change and that means what your customers buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it is unlikely to be the same as the last time you looked.

So with that thought in mind, the imperative is to put in place the necessary mechanism to capture the changes in the buying environment. This should be a constant and systematic effort, not a “once in awhile” peek in the window.  Here the sales team, if properly tasked and trained, can provide an early warning mechanism for anticipating and detecting changes in the buying process.  Plus they can contribute suggestions to the sales leadership as to what that realignment ought to look like.

The key walk away is: a starting point for getting sales enablement right is developing an early warning system about what is going on in the buying environment and your sales team is perhaps the best strategic resource for providing that insight.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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2 Responses to Sales Enablement – don’t put the cart before the horse!

  1. Great post, I have always looked at way to better my idea about how to be more relatable to our clients. It is also a good idea to listen to those clients as we continue to build a partnership with each other. My question is how can I build a sales and marketing plan for myself?

  2. Tim Johnson says:

    It’s one thing to capture feedback from sales and sales engineers about gaps or errors in the sales process. I agree that this step is vital to any organization. My question is how do you encapsulate that info, update the process and disseminate that change back out to your field (and all your myriad channel partners who don’t work directly for you) in any kind of a timely manner?

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